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Chronic Inflammation & Digestive Issues: The Gut/Brain Connection

Chronic Inflammation & Digestive Issues: The Gut/Brain Connection

If it seems likes almost everyone has some sort of digestive problem these days, you wouldn’t be far off. From constipation, gluten sensitivity and Irritable Bowel Disease, to Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease and diverticular disease, up to 70 million people are affected by digestive issues in the U.S. each year. Maybe you yourself (or someone you love) struggles with gut issues on a daily basis.

Gut inflammation is the unfortunate cause of most digestive troubles. Since 70-90% of your immune cells live in your gut, inflammation is not just bad news for your digestive system—more and more research reveals a startling connection between chronic gut inflammation and degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Your gut and your brain are connected in such a way that the health of one can affect the other. Simply put, inflamed gut equals inflamed brain and vice versa. This not only helps us understand what causes degenerative brain diseases but also how we can prevent them.

Parkinson’s Disease and Intestinal Inflammation

A growing body of research shows that intestinal health impacts the brain. Your gut is home to a vast, diverse microbial community. When something changes within that community, it can also influence the health of the central nervous system as well.

This connection is increasingly more relevant in the study of Parkinson’s Disease. PD is not just characterized by motor function deficits (shaking hands, etc.), but also by intestinal difficulties that can precede the motor function aspects of PD by decades. This study explains the ‘gut-brain axis’

“The connections between the nervous and immune systems and between inflammation and neurodegeneration have become far too substantial for modern PD research to ignore. Recognition of the complexity of PD offers new insight into its mechanisms. It is reasonable to speculate, for instance, that molecular regulators of intestinal, CNS, and systemic inflammation may play key roles in PD pathogenesis.”

Alzheimer’s, PTSD and Gut Bacteria

Just as gut bacteria can play a role in the development of Parkinson’s Disease, it can also impact the development of Alzheimer’s Disease and PTSD.

A 2016 study showed that gut bacteria can cause a build-up of amyloid plaques, which are most often associated with Alzheimer’s as well as Huntington’s disease and diabetes.

Another study showed that subjects with PTSD have lower levels of certain bacteria that can ultimately result in higher levels of inflammation:

“Those subjects with PTSD were found to have significantly lower levels of all three bacteria compared to the control group of subjects who had been exposed to trauma at some point in their lives but had not ultimately developed PTSD. This indicates to the researchers that low levels of these three bacteria could be resulting in heightened levels of inflammation, impacting the brain and contributing to the symptoms of PTSD.” – New Atlas

What Can We Do to Reduce Our Chances of Developing Those Disorders?

Although each disorder requires specific actions or preventative treatment, here are some things you can do to generally improve your gut health and keep inflammation from happening:

  • Remove chemicals, pesticides and additives from your diet whenever possible.
  • Consume more fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir.
  • Consider taking probiotics and prebiotics.
  • Include curcumin (turmeric) in your diet.
  • Decrease your intake of omega-6’s and increase omega-3’s.
  • Install a shower filter to take out chlorine. (Did you know that inhale more chlorine from a 10 minute shower than from drinking one glass of tap water?)
  • Reduce stress and increase sleep.

The abdominal area can also hold a lot of emotions. If you commonly experience sensations like gut-wrenching anxiety or a nervous stomach, then your abdominal area might be in need of de-stressing.

In that same vein, abdominal massage is very good for you and can help you release any anxiety and stress you might be holding on to. If you’ve never had it as part of your full body massage, I highly suggest that you request it during your next session. That area of the body can be a guarded place for some people, so you may have to overcome some nervousness about having your abdomen massaged, but it is definitely worth it!

Closing Thoughts

Your gut health plays an active role in the health of your brain. Keep both happy and healthy for a long time to come by keeping inflammation at bay.

Contact me and let’s chat—I can’t wait to address your unique needs.

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Suzanne Schaper

Suzanne Schaper is a Board Certified Massage Therapist in Overland Park, KS. She loves nothing more that sharing her knowledge for health and wellness with her clientele. "A life free of pain and disease is a more full life." Suzanne enjoys assisting her clients in their pursuit of health and happiness.

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